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How long does temporary erectile dysfunction last?

ED can be physically and emotionally difficult to work through.

Written by
Jessica Bahr
Medically reviewed by
Dr Darran Foo
Last updated
April 23, 2024
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How long does temporary erectile dysfunction last?
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Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a bit of an awkward topic and something that people often joke about, but the truth is, it is no laughing matter. Whether it's short-term or long-term, it can impact your mental health and sex life, and contribute to relationship problems.

For some, erectile dysfunction is a one-off and can be due to simple things like exhaustion or excessive alcohol consumption (whiskey dick is a thing!). But for others, it can be a more complex issue or a symptom of a serious medical condition.

Even if it is only temporary, erectile dysfunction can be physically and emotionally difficult to work through.

Here's what you need to know about temporary erectile dysfunction, how it can be treated, and how long it lasts.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, refers to being unable to obtain or maintain an erection that is adequate for sexual performance [1].

In the past, erectile dysfunction was thought to be a primarily psychological issue, but according to modern research, it is more often a physical problem [2]. It can also be a combination of both [3].

In some cases, it can be related to other disorders and diseases. The risk factors for erectile dysfunction can include prostate problems, diabetes, endocrinologic conditions, and sleep disorders.

There are several different types of erectile dysfunction and it doesn't look the same for everybody [4]. Certain people will be able to get an erection sometimes, but not every time they want to engage in sexual activity, whereas others can get an erection but struggle to maintain it, and others may not be able to become erect at all.

Many men will experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives, and for some, it will come and go. It is believed to affect about 1 in 5 men over 40 and is more common in older age groups [1].

Erectile dysfunction and sexual performance can be impacted by several factors [5]. It can be due to issues in blood flow to the penis, damaged nerves, stress or performance anxiety, or can be a symptom of a more serious health issue.

While erectile dysfunction is not rare, it's important to understand why it is happening and consider treatment options depending on the underlying cause.

Exploring erectile dysfunction

There are several different types of erectile dysfunction and understanding them can help address the issue and find ways to overcome it.

Temporary ED

Temporary erectile dysfunction isn't just sporadic or a one-off occurrence, but is also not long-term.

Potential causes can include lifestyle factors like smoking or drinking excessively [1]. While it might be easier said than done, lifestyle modifications such as eating a healthy diet, working out regularly, and maintaining cardiovascular health are all positive factors in improving erectile function.

Temporary ED can also be connected to physical health and spinal cord injuries, or it can be a result of starting a new medication, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, or prostate cancer [1].

Of course, for some people, these medications are required on an ongoing basis. If that's your case, and they continue to cause erectile problems, you may need to speak with your doctor about alternative options. This will help you avoid long-term erectile dysfunction.

Mental health changes and psychological factors, like anxiety or chronic stress, can also play a part for many people [1].

The good news is, temporary ED is exactly that — temporary. Depending on the cause, it can be treated through positive lifestyle changes and support from health professionals.

Situational ED

Situational erectile dysfunction is very common and it refers to being unable to obtain or maintain an erection in certain situations. Situational ED is often sporadic, and usually connected to psychological, environmental, or physical factors.

Causes of situational erectile dysfunction can include things like performance anxiety, condom problems, relationship issues, stress, conflict with your sexual partner or guilt about certain sexual activities [4].

Long-term ED

For some people, erectile dysfunction is a long-term issue. Similar to temporary or situational erectile dysfunction, there can be a variety of causes. Long-term erectile dysfunction can be due to nerve damage, poor cardiovascular health, clogging of the arteries, prostate disease, or scar tissue in the penis [1].

Those who have conditions like hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes also have an increased risk of erectile problems.

Diagnosing temporary ED

Diagnosing temporary erectile dysfunction can involve several steps, consultations and tests.

The diagnostic process can involve taking a medical history from you, including questions about your sexual history, and may involve various clnical examinations and tests, which can reveal conditions that could lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence. These could include conditions involving the nervous system, hormonal problems, issues with circulation, or any unusual characteristics of the penis [2].

Diagnosis of temporary erectile dysfunction can also involve laboratory tests to examine things like blood counts, urinalysis, testosterone, lipid profile, creatinine, and liver enzymes.

It can also be common for the doctor to ask you questions about your relationship with your partner and others aspects of your life to identify potential psychological factors which may be affecting sexual response. If appropriate, your doctor may ask for your permission to speak with your partner about your relationship.

Occasional erectile dysfunction is normal and will be experienced by most men at some point throughout their life, but if it's an ongoing issue, it's important to get a diagnosis and find out about your treatment options.

Causes of temporary ED

Temporary erectile dysfunction can happen due to either physical or psychological causes, some of which are more controllable than others.

Physical causes of ED include things that can restrict the blood flow to the penis, such as:

  • Becoming ill
  • Drug-induced ED, which can occur due to starting a new medication or taking illicit drugs
  • Conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking, which can exacerbate the effects of other risk factors, such as vascular disease or hypertension [2]

These examples of physical factors can be somewhat controlled through medication or lifestyle changes.

Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety (which can be about sexual performance or external issues such as finances or work) and psychiatric factors including depression often contribute to erectile dysfunction.

While it is more common in older men, ageing is not typically a cause of temporary erectile dysfunction.

How to treat erectile dysfunction

Like many medical conditions, the best ED treatment will depend on the underlying cause and your specific circumstances. If you or your partner is experiencing temporary erectile dysfunction, it might be worth considering a treatment plan like Pilot's clinical erectile dysfunction treatment.

Our treatment plans are delivered discreetly to your door, with both ongoing and on-demand options to suit your needs, created for you by an Australian practitioner following an online assessment.

For men with erectile dysfunction (where there is no serious underlying cause), medical treatment is generally considered the first and best option, with 94% of men reporting improvements in sexual response as it helps contract blood vessels in the penis, improving blood flow and maintain firm erections [6].

Other treatment options are injections, devices like a penis pump or ring, or in rare cases hormone therapy or vascular therapy, but these would typically be considered for long-term issues [1][3].

If temporary ED is due to psychological factors, things like counselling, couples therapy, and sex therapy are recommended [1].

As we've mentioned, erectile dysfunction is very common, but if it's an ongoing issue we highly recommend you seek medical advice. It could help you discover an underlying condition, lead to making positive lifestyle changes, and improve your relationships.

Plus, everybody deserves to have a healthy and fulfilling sex life.

Image Credit: Getty Images

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